A common trait among those suffering from drug and alcohol addiction is obsessing over the future. Not the positive goal-setting kind of obsession, but constant thoughts surrounding how to next buy their drug of choice and when they will be able to use.
Unless it is the act of taking a drink or using the drug, addicts are seemingly unable to live in the “here and now.” But living in the present is exactly what is needed. This allows a person to accept the emotions of the "present moment" rather than focusing on the next fix.
Living in the present moment and learning the process of mindfulness offers numerous advantages to those in treatment programs and to achieving long-term sobriety. In fact, research shows that there are clear benefits of incorporating mindfulness into a recovery plan.
What is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness can be defined as a non-judgmental form of observation. Taking a non-judgmental stance allows addicts to experience the negative urges and cravings without beating up on, or berating themselves for their thoughts. When an addict can become non-judgmental, they accept who they are without undue self-criticism.
This ability to be compassionate towards themselves allows a recovering addict to live in the present moment without being burdened by past negative behavior patterns or concern about the expectations of others.
The practice of mindfulness is no longer considered an experimental approach in the treatment of substance abuse disorders. Mindfulness is not about suppressing feelings but rather, it is about experiencing a full range of feelings in a non-judgmental way. Mindfulness techniques help a recovering addict sit quietly with their thoughts and emotions, without the pressure of having to take action or “fix” them.
In many ways, mindfulness is the opposite of addiction. Addiction is primarily an automatic behavior that is used to escape difficult feelings or circumstances.
But mindfulness requires a deliberate focus on those difficult emotions. Mindfulness helps disarm difficult feelings and circumstances by directly observing them and accepting them for what they are. It involves engaging in complete honesty with the “self” to reverse destructive thought patterns that fuel addiction.
Physical Benefits of Mindfulness
Drug and alcohol abuse can damage the body’s ability to fight off infection and sickness. During addiction, an individual is not focused on staying healthy, and the ability to fight off disease may be compromised. During detoxification, the immune system may become even weaker.
Research provides undisputed evidence that practicing mindfulness helps boost the body’s defense system against disease, and fosters wellness. Furthermore, including mindfulness as a daily ritual may lower inflammation levels, which is thought to promote the development and progression of many diseases.
With practice, mindfulness will strengthen the region of the brain that is responsible for feelings of optimism and well-being. In this way, mindfulness can help “rewire” the brain by teaching it new and better ways to respond to problems and supporting addiction recovery.
A New Peace of Mind
Many believe that addiction occurs because, over time, drug abusers become dulled to the experience of joy in their everyday life. Mindfulness has the potential of helping addicts find a sense of meaning and fulfillment. Practicing mindfulness on a regular basis has been shown to result in feelings of calmness and peacefulness in daily life.
Being fully in the moment has great advantages to the way we live and is especially helpful for recovering addicts. It is a powerful tool to cope with addiction and life beyond substance abuse.